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Study: Leafy greens top food poisoning source

  • FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2007 file photo, a worker harvests romaine lettuce in Salinas, Calif. Leafy green vegetables were the leading source of food poisoning over an 11-year period, federal health officials say, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. However, the most food-related deaths were from contaminated chicken and other poultry. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

NEW YORK — A big government study has fingered leafy greens like lettuce and spinach as the leading source of food poisoning, a perhaps uncomfortable conclusion for health officials who want us to eat our vegetables.

"Most meals are safe," said Dr. Patricia Griffin, a government researcher and one of the study's authors who said the finding shouldn't discourage people from eating produce. Experts repeated often-heard advice: Be sure to wash those foods or cook them thoroughly.

While more people may have gotten sick from plants, more died from contaminated poultry, the study also found. The results were released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans — or 48 million people— gets sick from food poisoning. That includes 128,000 hospitalization and 3,000 deaths, according to previous CDC estimates.

The new report is the most comprehensive CDC has produced on the sources of food poisoning, covering the years 1998 through 2008. It reflects the agency's growing sophistication at monitoring illnesses and finding their source.


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